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Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide


Indent or Impression on Paper

Detailed Procedure:

When tools such as pens and pencils are used on a sheet of paper, an impression may be left on the item underneath the paper being written on. This impression need not be visible to be successfully developed. When a questioned document is found at a scene, the investigator should remain alert for pads, folders, cardboard, books, or other underlying substrates that may have been under the questioned document when it was written.

To collect a dry paper product that may bear an indent or impression:

  1. Photograph the item in place.

  2. Wear new, unused, clean latex or nitrile gloves.

  3. Label a rigid collection container, such as a box, with identifying information, including case number, date, exhibit number, a brief description, and your name. The rigid container will protect the item's impression from being damaged in transit.

  4. Handle the item as little as possible and place it in a protective cover and then into the rigid container. Seal the container with evidence tape, and initial and date the tape.

  5. Store the item in a secure location, such as a locked evidence van or your vehicle, until you are able to transport it to the laboratory.

  6. If you are submitting the document for both document examination and fingerprint examination, consult the laboratory to determine the order in which to conduct the examinations to ensure that evidence is not destroyed by a testing method.

If the item is wet, dry it first using the procedure for wet documents as described under "Charred and/or Wet Documents" in this Guide.

If the document will also be examined for ignitable liquid residue, please consult the laboratory for the proper collection procedure. Items should not be air-dried or packaged in an air-permeable container if they will be examined for ignitable liquid residue.

Laboratory testing of paper products bearing possible indents or impressions:

Indented, impressed, or hidden writings or mechanical impressions can be detected, deciphered, and restored through laboratory analysis.


Crime Scene and Evidence Collection Handbook. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005.

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